This past semester, the PLNU surf team had the privilege of traveling 100 miles inland to Lemoore, California to surf the world’s most exclusive and pristine wave at Kelly Slater’s Surf Ranch.
The surf team was travelling north to the NSSA competition held at Steamer Lane in Santa Cruz and stopped in to the perfect wave to grab some high quality waves all to themselves.
The team was the first collegiate team to surf the wave since the first waves rolled through in December 2015.
Kelly Slater approached Adam Fincham, a researcher at the University of Southern California, and asked him to harness the nature behind waves and try to replicate it within a tank.
The pool is nearly 1,500 feet long and 500 feet wide separated in half by a huge metal contraption called a “hydrofoil,” which creates each perfect wave without a drop out of place. The hydrofoil is partially submerged in the water and attached to train-like cars that get pulled down a track, reaching speeds close to 20 mph. This creates a wave with sections specifically designed for barrel-surfing under the lip of the wave, and sections meant for turns and snaps on the face of the wave.
The team members of the PLNU surf team all waited patiently for their five designated waves during their stay, cheering on their teammates from the comfort of a hot tub and admiring the perfect waves rolling by their attentive gaze.
We had the pleasure of talking to some of the surf team members and got their opinion on what it was like to surf one of the world’s first man-made waves.
Maddie Lomonaco, a member of the surf team, describes the wave as, “Perfect from start to finish. There’s always the thought when surfing in the ocean that it could be slightly bigger, a little bit more shape, and just a bit longer, but with the wave pool everything is perfect. There’s nothing wrong with the wave.”
The wave pool works in a methodical and calculated way. There are twelve waves an hour with four people sitting in the water waiting for a chance to catch the wave if the preceding surfer falls, in order to not waste one of the perfect waves that runs through the water like a freight train.
“It’s a weird wave because you wait for the countdown from a loudspeaker to let you know when a wave is coming and when it does come you take off right next to a fence and are surfing straight the whole time,” says Maddie. “You get used to it though and start to understand the wave laid out before you. There are two wall sections, for turns, and a barrel section that you can’t anticipate because they’re beneath you and not in front of you.”
Maddie says, “The wave pool is the best wave I can imagine, but there’s nothing better than being able to hop into the ocean right after class.”
The PLNU surf team had the opportunity of a lifetime to be able to be the first college team to surf a wave that is covered by almost every surfer. The Surf Ranch will hold a special place in each one of their hearts and will be a tale told many times to each other while sitting in the water waiting for a wave to roll through.